Summary: Moments before Jesus' arrest, the Lord took time to explain to his disciples the coming Holy Spirit. For those followers of Jesus and for us, the Holy Spirit reminds us that God is for us, God is with us, and God is in us.
A King-sized Comforter
Jesus shares today’s scripture with his disciples over the Last Supper. He knows his arrest is imminent, that he will soon be nailed to a cross, so all of his words here carry a weighty importance. He wants to reassure his disciples, to help them to keep going when, soon, they will be at their lowest point; to know that, in the darkest times of their lives, God will still be very much present and at work.
I see three simple—yet profound—truths in today’s scripture. They were true for the original disciples and they are true for you if you call yourself a Christian, a follower of Jesus. They are simply these: God is for you, God is with you, and God is in you. Let’s examine each.
1. God is for you. In a world where it’s sometimes hard to know who you can trust, you can always know that God is on your side. As the Apostle Paul writes, “Nothing can separate us from the love of God” (Romans 8:38).
In today’s passage, Jesus promises his followers that he will send “another advocate.” There are a couple of important words here. First, look at that word “advocate.” Perhaps your Bible translates it as “helper” or “comforter” or “counselor.” The Greek word is “paraclete.” It’s a legal term, meaning one who comes to your defense, but it has a broader meaning as well: one who comes alongside you, who encourages you, who comforts you or helps you.
When I think of one who comes alongside, my mind goes back to the Army Physical Fitness Test or APFT. I don’t know about the other services, but in the Army, when it comes to the timed run event, you can actually have a paraclete at your side if you want. (They don’t call it that, but that’s essentially what the person is.) That person cannot touch you, but they can be there for you. Every time I took the test with a unit, I always saw some paracletes running with us. These were people who were coming alongside those who were struggling, telling them, “You can do this. Keep going. You’re almost there. Just one more lap! Come on, kick it in, give it everything you’ve got, finish well!”
I imagine that with the Holy Spirit. He says, “Hang in there. Don’t give up now. God is for you!” The Holy Spirit is our encourager, our comforter, our helper. He whispers in our ear, “God is for you!”
But also note the word “another.” Jesus says, “I will send ‘another’ comforter.” That tells us Jesus is our original advocate. Jesus is for us. Jesus cares about us. Many years later, the elderly apostle John will write some short letters to the churches, what we call 1 John, 2 John, and 3 John. And in 1 John 2:1, he says, “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate [same word in the Greek] with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” Jesus, too, is our advocate, our comforter, our helper. He advocates for us with the Heavenly Father. He says, “This is your child, Father. Please forgive him or her.” But Jesus, while fully God, is also fully human. Jesus will not physically be with all of us all of the time. So this other member of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus himself, reminds us whenever we need it, “Jesus is for you. God is for you!” Today’s passage also reminds us,
2. God is with you (v. 16-18, 21) – Jesus describes this paraclete in verse 16 as being “with you forever.” In verse 17, he says the Holy Spirit “lives with you.” In verse 18, he assures his followers that they will not become orphans. Here he gives them a veiled sign of his impending death. But even though he may have to leave their side, he will send another—one they already know—for indeed it is the Spirit of Jesus himself who will be with them, so that they will never be alone.
This is how Jesus can promise, right before his ascension to heaven, “And, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20). (By the way, this is also a sign that Jesus favors the Army over the Air Force, because he says, “And low, I am with you always,” not “And high, I am with you always.”)
God is with you. It reminds me of a grandpa who walked into the family room to find his little grandson, Jeffy, standing up in his playpen, crying. He looked so pitiful there, and when he saw his grandpa, his face lit up in a way that grabbed the old man’s heart. Jeffy immediately reached up his little chubby hands toward the sky and said, “Out, Papa, out!”